Fears of hard Brexit erase gains pound made after Johnson election

Sterling continued to slide on Wednesday on the prospect that the UK might leave the EU without a Brexit deal

A trader monitors financial data on computer screens as he works on the trading floor at ETX Capital, a broker of contracts-for-difference, after the U.K. general election, in London, U.K. on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. The pound soared, gilts fell and British stocks surged after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won a majority in the U.K. general election, raising hopes that an end to the Brexit deadlock will unlock pent-up investment flows. Photographer: Bryn Colton/Bloomberg
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The pound fell against all of its major peers as renewed concern the UK may be headed for a no-deal Brexit spurred traders to dump the currency.

Sterling extended losses from Tuesday when it tumbled as much 1.7 per cent following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to set a Brexit deadline of December 2020, with or without a trade deal with the European Union. The pound has erased all the gains it made after the Conservative Party won Thursday’s general election.

Mr Johnson’s plans “would leave the UK and EU less than one year to negotiate and enact a free-trade agreement, something most political commentators regard as almost impossible", said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda Corp. “The $1.30 region is a huge pivot point now” for sterling traders, he said.

The pound slipped 0.2 per cent to $1.3102 as of 12.59pm in Tokyo after dropping to $1.3073, the weakest level since December 12.

Traders are bracing for more potential upheaval as Mr Johnson prepares to put the divorce part of his Brexit deal to a vote in parliament as soon as Friday. The UK prime minister wants to deliver his election promise to finalise a new free-trade agreement with the EU before the bridging period maintaining the status quo runs out on December 31 next year.

One-year implied volatility in the pound-dollar pair climbed for a second day, after jumping the most in a year on Tuesday.

“The market is coming to the realisation that Boris Johnson actually means what he says – Brexit will happen no matter what,” said Mingze Wu, a foreign-exchange trader at INTL FCStone in Singapore. Worsening developments could push the pound down to as low as $1.20, he said.